With its message of redemption Christianity is not offering up some meaning, however washed out, for an expiated suffering of the past; rather, it is telling a particular history of freedom: a freedom based on the redeeming liberation by God in the Cross of Jesus. It is no accident that this history of liberation includes the descensus ad inferos, in which we are in no way dealing with some mythological topos that, for not belonging to what Jesus was really about, would have to be eliminated right from the start or really relativized as a subsequent interpolation into the Christian idea of redemption. This is how all the apocalyptic sting has been drawn from Christian soteriology; it is also how the decisive meaning it gives to freedom is obscured. This descensus, this “being-with (of the crucified) with the dead” indicates the original liberative dynamism of the history of redemption, without which every history of freedom is downgraded back to natural history and as such tends to be brought to a standstill: the final stage of freedom’s history as the apotheosis of nature!
Johann Metz, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, 124.